As ASEAN foreign ministers gather in Singapore from 21 July, efforts are being made to defuse tensions between Cambodia and Thailand over an ancient temple on their border, Preah Vihear.
Nearly 1,000 Cambodian troops and 500 Thai soldiers continue to face each other on the disputed territory since the differences boiled over last week. The standoff nearly erupted into violence late Thursday 17 July 08, when witnesses said troops twice pointed their guns at each other.
The atmosphere was less tense Saturday evening 19 July, as some Cambodian and Thai troops put down their weapons and chatted.
The Cambodian government has already taken the step to allege Thai "interference on its soil" to the United Nations Security Council. It is also reported that US, Chinese, French and Vietnamese embassy staff from Phnom Penh flew to tour the disputed territory on Saturday 19 July 08, adding to diplomatic pressure to end the confrontation. ASEAN is expected to discuss the border row, although it is not clear what actions - if any - ASEAN may consider. ASEAN held crisis talks Tuesday on the military standoff between Thailand and Cambodia, but failed to defuse the row that threatens to escalate into a test for the regional bloc.
Cambodia's request for the 10-member group to intervene by forming a body to help resolve the looming conflict was rejected. However, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the atmosphere at the meeting had been "friendly" but gave no indication progress had been made.
Bilateral talks Monday failed to resolve the dispute and Cambodia sent a letter to the United Nations on Tuesday demanding an emergency meeting of the Security Council to avoid an "armed confrontation."
A Thai military official conceded in Bangkok that the two sides were at a stalemate, and confirmed that Thailand was resisting any mediation by ASEAN, and prefers . to settle the problem over the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple through bilateral negotiations rather than getting the regional grouping involved in the issue.
"The situation has escalated dangerously, with troops from both sides facing off on disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech opening the Asean meeting. "Asean could not stand idly by without damaging its credibility."
Singapore, which chairs the meeting, on Sunday night issued a statement urging Thailand and Cambodia to exercise the utmost restraint and resolve the issue amicably. Asean was also ready to help resolve the problem, the statement said.
Bangkok Post 20 July 2008, Temple talkfest http://www.bangkokpost.com/topstories/topstories.php?id=128960, Cambodia appeals to UN, http://www.bangkokpost.com/topstories/topstories.php?id=128955,
TODAY 22 July, ASEAN ministers confront Thai-Cambodia crisis, http://www.todayonline.com/articles/266419.asp
Bangkok Post 22 July ASEAN ministers confront Thai-Cambodia crisis http://www.todayonline.com/articles/266419.asp